Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A glorious weekend celebrating Bishop George and Ruth Councell

It was a joyous and grace-filled weekend in the Diocese of New Jersey!  On Sunday, October 13, about 600 people gathered at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton from all over the diocese and beyond to honor Bishop George and Ruth Councell for their ministry over the past ten years.  Prior to the service, a jazz ensemble regaled the crowd.   The celebration of the Eucharist was glorious.  Stunning music, personally chosen by Bishop Councell, was offered by a joint choir of the Cathedral and Trinity Church, Princeton as well as a brass ensemble.    
Bishop George and Ruth Councell - photos by Dot Cellini

Bishop Councell

Bishop Councell preached on the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke’s Gospel and underscored the message of God’s unconditional love which has been his signal message since he arrived in the Diocese 10 years ago.  His sermon was filled with grace and love and much humor and warmth.   At the meeting of Diocesan Council the following Tuesday, I said to him about Sunday, “We all came to bless and celebrate you but, son of a gun, you ended up blessing us!”   

Fellow Bishops from Province II,  The Right Reverend Mark Beckwith of Newark, the Right Reverend Andy Dietsche of New York, The Right Reverend Larry Provenzano of Long Island and The Right Reverend Skip Adams of Central New York participated in the service.  The Right Reverend Prince Singh of Rochester, who had a visitation in his diocese, joined us for a reception and dinner later in the day.   Beautiful art work by Ruth Councell was hung in Synod Hall.  So many worked hard and did a tremendous job in making it all happen in a wonderful way.  Thanks to The Very Reverend Rene John, The Rev. Canon Linda Moeller, The Rev. Art Powell and The Diocesan Standing Liturgical Commission, staff and members of Trinity Cathedral and The Transition Committee.

St. Paul's - Camden, NJ photo by Susan Stokes
Earlier in the day, Susan and I had driven down to Camden where we joined Fr. Marty Gutwein and the people of St. Paul’s in Camden for 11 AM worship.  Fr. Marty has been engaged in the challenges of urban ministry in Camden for 33 years.  He arrived to an aged and dying congregation.  Today, St. Paul’s is a diverse congregation with young and old alike.   As they describe themselves on their website, “The congregation at St Paul’s is small - about 160 baptized members. Approximately half of them, however, are under the age of twenty-one. This roughly reflects the population in the city of Camden. We are black and white, city residents and suburbanites. We are from many parts of the world - the Caribbean, West Africa, Britain and the USA. We are steeped in the love of Jesus Christ and committed to sharing that love in practical ways. Our fellowship reaches beyond our baptized membership and seeks to embrace a wider community of people who worship with us or otherwise find strength for living by coming to this place.”  (See  Susan and I had the privilege of attending the baptism of a child of the parish.  Sunday evenings, St. Paul’s feeds all comers and holds a service of Evensong.  It is their largest service of the week. 

With Dean Rene John and Chairperson Chuck Perfater
On Monday, October 14, about 130 golfers participated in the 9th Annual Trinity Cathedral Community Day Golf Tournament.   It was a perfect fall day!   To kick things off, there was a 10 AM celebration of the Eucharist not far from the first tee.  I celebrated and Bishop Councell preached.   He reminded the golfers that in playing golf, unlike other sports, there is time to think and reflect.   “Don’t make it a ‘good walk spoiled,’ he said, referring to Mark Twain’s famous line about golf.  “Think about God and the kingdom as you play, think about serving the kingdom like Samuel Shereschewsky…”  

 Samuel Isaac Joseph Shereschewsky,  whose feast day was the day of the golf tournament,  was sent by the Episcopal Church as a missionary to China.  In 1877, he was elected Bishop of Shanghai.  According to James Kieffer and,  “He developed Parkinson's disease, was largely paralyzed, resigned his position as Bishop of Shanghai, and spent the rest of his life completing his Wenli Bible, the last 2000 pages of which he typed with the one finger that he could still move.   Four years before his death in 1906, he said: ‘I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.’”  (See

Bishop Councell , Susan and I, along with diocesan “Paparazzi” Dot Cellini,  drove around the course in the morning, watching some of the players and taking pictures with some of the teams.  At 4 PM there was a reception and dinner at which prizes were awarded in various categories.   The prized Bishop’s Cup was awarded to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy which fielded the team with the best net low score of the day.  Many thanks to Dean Rene John, Chuck Perfater, Chair of the event and to his Committee for putting on a great event!

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